PART II: CHANGING ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOR
CHAPTER 6:"WHO SAYS IT": SOURCE FACTORS IN PERSUASION
We all recognize that
who says it matters in persuasion. However, we may not fully appreciate
the dynamics of communicator effects. This chapter explores source, or communicator,
factors, using theory and research to illuminate these issues. The elusive
concept of charisma is introduced, along with clarification of the concept's
complexities and limitations. The chapter moves to a discussion of authority,
focusing on Milgram's classic study of obedience. Credibility is then defined
and decomposed. The discussion of credibility is intended to help students
appreciate the elements of the concept, contextual effects, and the role
that audience perceptions play in credibility judgments. The remainder of
the chapter describes liking, similarity, and physical attractiveness effects.
The focus is on explaining why and when these communicator factors work,
as well as the role that cultural factors play in the physical attractiveness
AND ISSUES TO KNOW
Authority effects in real life
OF MAJOR TERMS
quality of the individual that sets him or her apart from others; seemingly
magical set of qualities encompassing credibility, powerful language,
social sensitivity, and attractiveness.
Authority: communicator whose power comes not from personal
qualities, but his or her perceived position in a social structure.
Compliance: adopting a behavior, at least in part, because
of a desire to obtain specific rewards or avoid punishments.
Internalization: accepting recommendations because the message
is congruent with values or attitudes.
Identification: accepting a communicator's recommendations
because one identifies with the communicator, or wants to establish a
positive relationship with him or her.
Credibility: attitude toward a source of communication held
at a particular time by a message receiver. It consists primarily of expertise,
trustworthiness, and good will.
Expertise: knowledge or ability ascribed to the communicator.
Trustworthiness: perceived honesty, character, and safety
Good will: perceived caring or empathy.
Knowledge bias: the presumption that a communicator has
a biased view toward an issue,
as a function of his or her background. Communicators who violate the
knowledge bias can enhance credibility.
Reporting bias: the perception that the communicator has
opted not to report or disclose certain factors or points of view. Communicators
who violate the reporting bias can enhance credibility.
- The classic Milgram
experiments have stimulated a number of questions worthy of discussion,
including the following: (1) How do the findings illustrate the power
that situations exert on behavior?; (2) Do you share the critics' reservations,
or do you agree with those who hold that the findings were genuine?;
and (3) Do you believe the study still has implications for today or
is, instead, a "period piece" that applies more to earlier
eras than today?
- Summarize the knowledge
and reporting bias concepts. Next, thinking of current events in the
news and entertainment worlds, offer some examples of real-life communicators
who seemed to have gained credibility by violating the knowledge or
reporting bias. Turning this around, think of situations in which communicators
might actually lose credibility -- or not gain it -- by violating knowledge
or reporting biases. This could include institutional communicators
(for example, tobacco companies who sponsor anti-smoking or pro-environmental
communications may not benefit from the knowledge bias).
- Do you believe
that standards for physical attractiveness are universal or vary with
culture? Discuss, considering implications for persuasion.
- Do audiences evaluate
female communicators by different standards than they do men? Are female
communicators disadvantaged when it comes to persuasion, or can they
be every bit as compelling as male communicators? Similarly, are minorities
judged by different criteria than White communicators? Are minorities
at a strategic disadvantage when it comes to persuading mainstream White
audiences? Conversely, could it be argued that race no longer matters
in persuasion, or that in some situations African-Americans have a cultural
advantage? Discuss these issues.
- The main finding
of the Milgram experiments is that:
a. a small minority of people administered heavy electric shocks, in
the presence of the lab-coated scientist
b. those who delivered electric shocks scored high on psychological
c. nearly two-thirds of subjects delivered strong electric shocks, in
the presence of the experimenter
d. half of the subjects resisted authority, rejecting the experimenter's
- Which of these
is NOT true of the Milgram studies?
a. subjects who conformed did so in part because they were afraid of
the psychological consequences of challenging the experimenter
b. the experimenter coerced respondents into going along; persuasion
was not involved
c. obedience was more likely when the experimenter sat a few feet from
the teacher than when he gave the orders by telephone
d. the trappings of the experiment, including the experimenter's lab
coat and gender, may have increased pressure to conform
- Credibility is
a. message recipients' attitudes toward a communicator
b. titles and credentials accumulated by communicator
c. likability and charm
d. ability to reward audience members
- Which of these
is NOT true about credibility?
a. credibility emerges in the transaction between source and message
b. credibility has several components
c. different facets of credibility can be influential in different contexts
d. speakers who have authority possess credibility
- According to the
knowledge bias, which of these should be most persuasive giving a speech
a. U.S. Surgeon General
b. impoverished, but rehabilitated, ex-drug user
c. likable spokesperson from Partnership for a Drug-Free America
d. celebrity actor
- You are trying
to decide whether to use a physically attractive communicator as a spokesperson
for a campaign. Which of these statements is accurate and, therefore,
of use to you?
a. physical appeal is a peripheral factor that has no impact on persuasion
b. physical attractiveness has a stronger effect for female than male
c people go along with attractive communicators because they like and
d. since attractiveness is the same as credibility, you can be assured
that an attractive spokesperson will be perceived as credible
Answers: 1: c, 2:
b, 3: a, 4: d, 5: b, 6: c
- Select a charismatic
communicator -- either someone from contemporary life, or a historical
figure (political leader, activist, cult leader, etc.). Read up on this
person and study his or her communication style. What makes or made
the individual charismatic? Which communicator qualities (for example,
credibility, language, nonverbal communication, and social sensitivity)
were most important? How did the communicator's interplay with the audience
increase his or her charismatic appeal? In the case of the historical
figure, do you believe he or she would be charismatic today; why or
- Observe persuasive
communicators plying their trade. Specifically, observe and interview
a communicator who effectively uses expertise, trustworthiness, good
will, or social attractiveness. You might focus on salespeople, including
car salesmen and women, lawyers, rabbis, reverends, or priests, health
care practitioners, campus leaders, or waiters and waitresses trying
to solicit tips. How do they try to gain credibility or social attractiveness?
What makes them credible or likable? Write up your report in an interesting
way, calling on concepts from chapter 6.
Back in January, 2002,
a scandal erupted involving Fortune 500 energy giant, Enron, and the Arthur
Andersen accounting firm. Enron went bankrupt due to mismanagement, rampant
exaggerations of its earnings, and risky, fraudulent business practices.
The global, well-heeled accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, served as a
major consultant and auditor of Enron's finances. With federal government
investigations and numerous legal suits pending, officials at Andersen
deliberately destroyed -- shredded -- thousands of email messages and
paper documents relating to Enron's unorthodox financial practices. Presumably,
executives like Andersen's David B. Duncan, who ordered the destruction
of documents, had some inkling that what they were doing was wrong. However,
they proceeded, obeying authority or company rules, in a way reminiscent
of the classic Milgram experiments.
The following articles,
available in the library or the Internet, discuss the case:
fires an executive for Enron orders," by Richard A. Oppel, Jr.,
The New York Times, January 16, 2002, pp. A1, C7., and "Andersen
fires partner it says led shredding of Enron documents," by Ken
Brown, Greg Hitt, Steve Liesman, and Jonathan Weil, The Wall Street
Journal, January 16, 2002, pp. A1, A18.
How does the Andersen
executive's behavior fit the mold of obedience to authority? How can we
explain his actions, psychologically? How might the executive explain
his actions? How can we encourage people tempted to commit crimes of obedience
to listen to voices of conscience?